What Is the Most Popular Scent All Around the World?

Preferring certain scents seems to be a matter of personal, not cultural, preference; vanillin is universally the most pleasing.
Preferring certain scents seems to be a matter of personal, not cultural, preference; vanillin is universally the most pleasing.

It's said that you are what you eat, but you probably aren't what you smell. In other words, while certain favorite things might be indicative of a person's culture, a recent study found little to no correlation between one's preferred scents and one's background.

"We wanted to examine if people around the world have the same smell perception and like the same types of odor, or whether this is something that is culturally learned," said Artin Arshamian, a neuroscientist with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. "Traditionally it has been seen as cultural, but we can show that culture has very little to do with it."

Nearly 300 people from all over the world were tasked with smelling and ranking 10 scents. While vanillin – the basis of vanilla extract – was generally considered the best, the researchers learned that the choices made were clearly a matter of personal preference, not nationality, culture or other factors. "Taken together, this shows that human olfactory perception is strongly constrained by universal principles," the study's researchers concluded. For what it's worth, isovaleric acid, which has an odor connected to sweat, ranked lowest overall. What a surprise...

I smell a fact:

  • Like fingerprints, an individual's personal odor is unique – except that of identical twins.

  • Smell is the only sense to which we have an emotional reaction before we identify the object it comes from.

  • A women's sense of smell is typically much stronger than a man's, but a dog's can be up to 100,000 times better than any human's.

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    • Preferring certain scents seems to be a matter of personal, not cultural, preference; vanillin is universally the most pleasing.
      By: Liv Friis-larsen
      Preferring certain scents seems to be a matter of personal, not cultural, preference; vanillin is universally the most pleasing.